9 Best Korean Restaurants in Rome

There are only 12 so that makes it easier. I am listing the restaurants on flavor, authenticity, and selection.

Seoul Restaurant is old school.

Seoul: This place was filled with Koreans and the atmosphere is more family than business lunch. They have no mandu (dumplings) but otherwise a full menu. The service was fast and the flavors were authentic. Not a wide variety of panchan but at least the kimchi was okay. This is on the south side (also figuratively) of Termini. This newly renovated place is down in a basement and I think it is located where the previous highly rate Hana was once located. I would go back.

Seoul restaurant is newly renovated down in a basement.

Starbaps: This tiny three high table top take out place has five things on the menu (bento box, rice bowls, dumplings, rice cakes, and soup) but the flavor is authentic. But it annoys me that they deep fry their mandu as this destroys any “chew” factor. I go back all the time.

This a tiny place with a few high top tables.

Gainn: Perfectly acceptable place to eat Korean. Elegant enough for a nice meal. Near Termini on the nice side. Probably would take newbies here.

Gainn is a fairly classic Korean place.
HanCook in south Rome.

Hancook: New restaurant, pleasant atmosphere. They are a bit south of the center. The seafood pancake was good, but the bulgogi was bad. It tasted blah. The japchae noodles were excellent. They had no beef mandu (dumplings) but have small deep fried scallion gyoza. They also have pork dumplings in a money sack shape were “sold out” when I visited. The pork, seafood, and tofu stew was spicy and okay. The rice was not sticky Korean rice. The restaurant looks nice but there were not too many Koreans eating there even though the owner is Korean and the waitress is also Korean. She bops around in her mom jean shorts and speaks Italian. Might go back.

At HanCook, the bulgogi looks okay but it has no taste.

Jangbaeksan/Chang Bai Shan: It’s Chinese Korean. Perfectly acceptable Korean food. A bit far out down south of the center of town. Might go back.

Lettuce included at Jang Baek San.

Da Lui Bian BBQ: This place is listed as a yakitori (meat on stick in Japanese) place but the photos show Korean items. The Korean items are all fine. The bulgogi was more like roastbeef so not too sinewy. This place is also near the center of town so convenient. Might go back.

Large but few portions of panchan at Da Lui Bian.

Kombi Ni Ni: is a pan Asian place but they do make some Korean items. Very generic pan Asian but okay if your live nearby. It is actually a Korean owned shop but they are doing well enough that it takes 90 minutes to get the food so it is best to order online. I liked their fried chicken but it could have been fried anything. Good though. The kimbap (like sushi rolls/maki but these are with beef) were good too. No kimchi served with meals/bento boxes. A bit like Starbaps. Too far away to go back to.

Mamma Coreana/Corea: This is a bit like eating at a Korean mamma’s house. They have all you can eat which includes some basics including rice and soup. There are a few a la carte items but not much of a menu. When the food is done, it’s done. This is bare bones, TV on, children running around, businessmen on video calls with wife while eating, kind of place. I might go back.

Arirang is down those stairs…

Arirang: The food was very average, the location and facade make it a hole in the wall. This is the place that I’ve seen from when driving around Termini… I even walked around twice looking for this place with the Korean painted frontage… and then I searched on Google Earth… finally, I found it by reading other lists of Korean restaurants in Rome, but I clicked on the image search instead of the regular search. Read that list here. I would not go back.

I-gio: This is possibly the most trendy of the Korean restaurants. The restaurant is elegant. The food was okay but I didn’t find it good enough to finish or take home. I would not go back.

Galbi: This was another strange frankenstein of a place. The menu is made for Italians. If you want the food served more Korean style, the owner will do so. I wish him good luck, but I would not go here for Korean food. I might go back to grill steak on the mini grill for an Instagram video. Would not go back.

Biwon: Sad. I did not finish the food and I left quickly.

There are two other restaurants listed on Google but…

Kumkan-san: way outside Rome, near Ciampino airport. Temporarily closed.

Rist.coreano: Outside the ring road around Rome. I think this is only for organized tour groups and I don’t think this is really open to the public.

And then there are places with Korean food on the menu:

Raviolieri: It’s not Korean but while many restaurants are trying to get a piece of the “Korean chicken wing” action, this place actual has several pages of Korean items on their menu. The items are fusion Roman-Korean.

Most of the restaurants now make “Korean chicken” wings but they are not. They are chicken wings. Some have sauce. It is not the same as the ethereal rice flour wings of real Korean chicken wings.

The Digestivo Will Cure You

An digestif made from arugula. I can’t recall what the other one was made from.

As they say, what does not kill you, will make you better. I am always suspicious of things that are supposedly really good for you or things that will increase my sexual stamina. Usually these things are things that are terrible tasting.

Often, you are offered a limoncello at the end of the meal.

Italians have an obsession with their intestinal and gut health. Drinking a little digestif, digestivo, is something many of them are accustomed to.

“Amaro” is bitter. No kidding.

Digestifs are usually an alcoholic beverage that you enjoy at the end of meal. It is not meant to be downed like a shot. As with many things in Italy, most of the Italian digestifs are bitter. Oh how they love bitter here!

I have tried a few. Some made from walnuts and some made from arugula. The one made from arugula is a specialty of Ischia, an island near Capri.

If they are not too bitter, then they are often too sweet. When I tried the Ratafia, I was delighted because while sweet, it at least tasted good.

The “elixir from Abruzzo” was quite good.

Ten Unknown Local Dishes to Try

While there are many local specialties that everyone will recommend, like orecchiette in Apulia, I want to mention some that do not get mentioned as often.

Egg soup, Salina: A soup with poached eggs and vegetables.

Egg soup

Fried cheese, Abruzzo (and other areas): This fried cheese is a bit like haloumi in Greece, but not as salty. Served melted from the oven. In Salina, it is deep fried.

Fried cheese

Pizzeli (wine cookies): Most regions of Italy have round hard not sweet crackers that are for dipping in wine.

Egg cheese balls, Abruzzo: These were like a cheese egg souffle in a round donut hole size and shape. Served with red tomato sauce.

Raw artichoke salad: Actually, try any of the salads and vegetables that you have never tried before like raw fennel or artichoke.

Fried egg tart, Campania: A frittata which is then deep fried.

Taralla (Napoli): These are another baked bread twist. Many places in Italy make them like a small ring but in Naples, they are longer.

Fish balls, Salina: On this island off of Sicily, one can try tender fish balls. Try them. They are surprisingly good.

Fish balls

Pizzette (small pizzas), Rome: Many bakeries sell mini pizzas (many with no cheese or red sauce as a pizza just means a type of bread). These pizzette are often served at happy hour.

Pane Cunzatu, Salina: This is like a giant garlic bread. The plate-sized bread is toasted and smothered in toppings. Absolutely awesome!

Cunzatu

The melon-cucumber of Apulia: I wrote about this before. When in season, it is served as the “vegetable” but only to locals so make sure to ask!

Melon cucumber slices served with radishes

Why Italy Does Not Need Michelin Stars

The best pickle I’ve had in Italy but is it worthy of a Michelin star? Signum.

Some of the worst meals I’ve had in Italy have been in fancy expensive Michelin star restaurants. Some people get super excited about Michelin stars and deem those restaurants better than others. I do not get it. The Michelin star system started out as a way to get the tires worn out. Italy does not need these fancy restaurants. Actually the Michelin star system has nothing to do with how fancy the restaurant is but solely the food, cooking, and constituency of those things. The general public seems to not know this. Michelin is not even all over the world yet (they say that they are taking is slowly). Michelin has not reached South America yet. Imagine that! There are restaurants in Lima that should have a star, but Michelin hasn’t gotten there yet. If consistently making good food was really the reason to give a place a star, then many more would have them.

Eggplant parmesan with anchovy from Mamma Santina, Salina. Not by a Michelin chef. But stellar nonetheless.

The food in Italy is already natural, local, and delicious. The various types of Italian cuisine (there are many) are based on local, simple, and delicious. Michelin seems to go for innovative, expensive, and small portions. Add to that how hard it is to get a reservation at a Michelin star restaurant, and it is just not my idea of a good food experience. Some of the finest dishes I’ve tasted were not by a Michelin star chef.

One thing that many people like about small portions is that it allows them to try many things and it is a form of portion control. You can try that anyway in Italy. The portions of appetizers and first courses are not necessarily that huge. Or share with a friend. Most restaurants will even split the dish onto two plates.

Bao at the Michelin star chef’s place, Signum.

The last Michelin star restaurant experience underlined why Italy doesn’t need Michelin Star restaurants. One of the dishes “invented” was a bao, a steam Asian style bun. But it wasn’t as good as the authentic ones and I do not think it highlighted the ingredients. Then we had an appetite stimulant of pickles which were the most sour I have had in Italy. I can see how this was innovative for Italy where sour is not sour. One dish was a roasted escarole (half an escarole head). It cost 38 euro.

Caponata at Signum. One of the normal dishes there.

I guess my biggest peeve with these restaurants is that they are so pricey and pretentious. Most of the places on my list are not expensive, and not pretentious. Nothing makes food taste bad like attitude.

The current system where restaurants are listed in the Michelin guide is just like Yelp or TripAdvisor. The guide in Italy is Gambero Rosso. The Michelin guide is separate from a chef earning a star, of which there are 367 (318 have one star) in Italy. I am glad when a woman gets a star but I don’t think that makes the overall system better. The Michelin guide badge is a round red sticker that you can see on many restaurant doors alongside the ones for TripAdvisor.

I tend to use Google ratings because I like the democracy of the system. It relies on average eaters reviewing places and not a specialized team of experts who want to wear out your tires in France. In Italy, most restaurants make consistently good food. Or consistently bad. Try them for yourself.

Grocery Stores in Rome

Tuna is a main staple in Italy. This generic store brand is half the price of the fancy gourmet kind.

Grocery stores in Rome are small, but, you will probably be able to find everything you want or think you want. For some speciality stuff, you will need to go to the international stores as the basic chain stores have very little “international” food. While the chain stores are convenient, I actually prefer the little mom and pop stores, but they are dying away.

The entrances to the stores are often quite small.

Pam, Coop, Conad, and Carrefour are the main chain stores in the center of Rome. Carrefour is tiny here, unlike in some places where they are megastores (like in France).

This aisle is fairly wide for here.

For the Wegmans/Whole Foods type stores, there is DOC (by Coop) and NaturSi (some are quite basic and others have a wider variety like the one on Piazza Farnese, which also has a cafe).

It being Italy, one can buy zucchini flowers.

For the bargain chains, there is Todis, Lidl, Metro, and some that I can’t recall the name of, maybe Tiger?

Eggs are not refrigerated in Italy.

The largest combined “super-Target” type stores I’ve seen here are Conad and Elite.

Castroni has almost everything from the far reaches of anyone’s empire.

Most of the local “rione” markets will have everything for basic shopping but markets tend to close by 2 pm. Many of the specialty stores like delicatessens and bakeries have started carrying other products like milk so that you can do much of your grocery shopping there. I can find almost everything I need for grocery shopping at the farmers market on Via San Teodoro, but it will all be made locally, so no imported goods.

Yes, the wine is cheap. They make it here.

The hardest products for foreigners and expats to find in Rome is cilantro and corn tortillas. I notice a trend in “Mexican” food so these products should be easier and easier to find over the years. Again, finding TexMex is a subject that continually follows me around the world. Gringos are obsessed with it.

For international products, Castroni is a shopping emporium with an Aladdin’s den of dry goods, but also refrigerated goods. There are many Asian shops that carry goods from all over the world, including some fresh vegetables.

For those looking for vegetarian foods or gluten free foods, all these are now easily found in most grocery stores. “Exotic” foods require a bit more hunting. Also, sometimes, the store may not have a whole lot of the one product that you want. I consider it a victory when I can buy more than one bottle of my favorite type of milk.

Caffe Freddo

The chocolate syrup is an extra touch. This one is from Naples.

When it is hot in Italy, you want to order a “caffe freddo” (cold coffee) which is sort of like a coffee milkshake. It’s a bit confusing because it is not a “frappe” which is a different drink. I include a photo here so that you can see that a frappe is a coffee which is frothed to the point where it has a frappe/froth/head on top. A caffe freddo has milk added, a frappe does not.

A frappe — not a caffe freddo.

When you see the slush machines spinning with coffee colored caffe freddo, you know that summer has arrived. A caffe freddo is different from an iced coffee or milkshake.

A caffe freddo from Otranto, Apulia.

As an aside, the milkshakes in Italy are quite liquid and not unlike a caffe freddo except that they are not always as cold. Also, you can get a milkshake most of the year but caffe freddo is a summer thing.

A caffe freddo from Salento, Apulia.

The Best Pistachio Gelato in the World

Italians love pistachio gelato. The real deal is not neon green nor “flavor” — it’s actually pistachio nuts that have been ground and then mixed with the milk to make gelato. Having read about Crispini’s world champion gelato, we had to go.

In the Umbrian town of Spoleto, Crispini’s proudly display and sell their 2017 World Champion Pistachio Gelato.

We went. But, as neither my gelato-loving friend nor I like pistachio flavor, neither of us got it!

As we were eating our gelato outside, I said that as we had come all this way, we needed to try it. It was absolutely worthy of the accolades. The pistachio gelato tasted like fresh pistachio nut juice. If you can imagine what that would be like.

So if you are a fan of pistachio gelato, make Spoleto a destination on your next trip to Umbria. An added bonus is that Spoleto is a typical cute Umbrian town with a cute old part. They have elevators from the parking area which is practical.

M’s Adventures Recommends Ten Restaurants in Rome

Osteria del Rione

With the return of visitors to Rome, people are asking me for advice on where to eat. Therefore I will publish this list before I’m really ready to as I have not found ten places off the beaten path that I would recommend. Instead, this list is mostly famous places.

First, my recommendations out of the famous places:

Pierluigi, Piazza de Ricci 144 (downtown Rome): it is on its own piazza and you can enjoy the people watching. It is a seafood restaurant, but it has the most delicious vegetarian pasta and tiramisu. You will need to make a reservation.

The tiramisu at Pierluigi is a creamy cloud.

Colline Emiliane, Via degli Avignonesi 22 (near Piazza Barbarini): This place makes delicious food. It is the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Modena, Parma, etc.). Small and with no outdoor seating. But, they have a window where you can watch the pasta being made fresh every day. You have to call to make a reservation.

Tonnorello (several locations in Trastevere): I thought it was a zoo eating there, way overcrowded and the same food you can get most places. If you go at 12:30 pm, you can probably get in to one of the locations.

La Matriciana (across from the opera house, near the Termini train station), Via del Viminale, 44: Classic place from 1870.

Then the less famous places:

Fuoco Lento, Via Flavia 63/65 (in Ludovisi/Sallustiano): Old school waiters, outdoor seating as well, never had anything bad here. It’s my “go-to” place. Open on Sunday night as well. Outside the touristy area so much easier get a table.

Da Bucatino, Via Luca della Robbia 84/86 (in Testaccio): outside the tourist areas, has outdoor seating, and is an old school place.

Tratteria Valentino (not to be confused with Trattoria da Valentino on Via Cavour, which is also fine.), Via del Boschetto 37 (in Monti): great local place on a side street in Monti. Near Quirinale palace. Hidden in plain sight because they kept the old facade from when the space was a ice shop.

Trattoria Valentino has kept the old “ice shop” signage on the building.

And one that is not famous:

Osteria del Rione, Via Basento, 20 (near Villa Borghese): Just north of the Via Veneto neighborhood, this place is a real local place located in a basement. There is almost no other business on the street, an extremely limited menu (basically what Bruno, the owner, tells you he has), and a set menu for 10 euro.

The entrance of Osteria del Rione.
The carbonara at Osteria del Rione is one of the best, if not THE best.

Lastly, I recommend one place outside Rome (near the airport) Osteria dell’elefante, which I wrote about before.

Once I have been to ten places that are fairly unknown, like Osteria del Rione, I’ll write about them.

Child-Friendly Restaurant Outings Within Two Hours of Rome

The Farfa Valley outside Rome

Sundays are family day, and long lunch day. If you have children in the two-five year old range, going out for lunch on a day trip outside Rome requires a few things… a place that is safe enough for them to run around (because the goal is to get them tired out), has some entertainments (donkey, chicken, playground, other people), fresh air, a good bathroom (or other area for diaper changing). Oh, and good food and wine for the adults. Italians adore “bambini” so most restaurants will be accommodating. Here are some to try that are not only for children, but rather a place where the adults can enjoy themselves and the children will also be tired (oh, I mean entertained) out.

Cantina Osteria dell’Elefante (this place is only 30 or 40 minutes from Rome): It’s a fantastic place and they have a donkey named Arturo.

Cantina del Drago, Sutri (about an hour away): Enclosed green area, excellent staff and located in a cute little town.

Cantina del Drago in Sutri.

La Cerra (about 90 minutes away): like a hunting lodge. Has a playground.

Il Piccolo Mondo (90 minutes or so): homemade food, family feel, and with chickens to visit.

Lo Vecchio Fattoria (over two hours, almost in Umbria): an agroturismo and large wedding venue with animals and fields.

La Fiocina, near Lake Nemi (only an hour but for the traffic): one has to go down some stairs but the view over the lake is worth it. Then go to Nemi as it is gorgeous.

Lake Nemi

Ristorante L’Oasi di Vescovio (about an hour): there is a church and a large area to run around in.

Le Comari di Farfa (30 minutes): one has to pre-arrange this place but it’s located in the beautiful valley of Farfa just outside Rome, but a million miles away. Loc. Mercato Vecchio, 02031 Castelnuovo di Farfa Italy — it’s where I went on the olive oil tasting tour with Johnny Madge.

I’ll update this list as I discover more places.

Napoli for a Day

Naples deserves a longer visit, but as it is only one hour away from Rome (in the next region, Campania), it is often done in just one day. Here’s how to do a tour of Naples in one day. To read about the “new city” of Napoli’s 3,000 year history, read here. First, a warning. There is a lot of graffiti in Naples. But only in the central part near the university. The city feels really gritty in those narrow streets.

Take an early train to Naples. The train from Roma Termini goes every hour and takes an hour.

Go to the famous fish market. It is not as picturesque as in the cooking shows, but it’s located near the train station in a “dicey” part of town. I didn’t think it was all that dangerous but maybe it was because it was daylight and the sun was shining.

Go for breakfast in Naples. Try Caffè Gambrinus, on Via Chiaia n. 1, favored haunt for the presidents of Italy, if you want to go somewhere famous. Otherwise, find any local cafe for a sfogiatella (a traditional pastry from the region of Campania) and a coffee.

Visit the National Archeological Museum of Naples (MANN). If you are not going to visit Pompeii, then visiting this museum will give you a chance to see some of the art from the famous city.

This museum has a “Cabinet of Secrets” where they display some of the erotic art from Pompeii. This room is only open until 2 pm, and there is a time limit of five minutes.

Eat seafood for lunch. Spaghetti alle vongole is so famous and it seems like a natural dish to eat in this port city.

Walk the promenade, admire the view of Vesuvius. (or if you are really cheeky and want to include even more in one day, take a drive down the Amalfi Coast or a ferry along the coast.)

Grab a gelato along the way. Gay Odin is a famous chocolate and gelato chain with many locations in Naples.

Eat a famous pizza for dinner. Most restaurants should make good pizza but you can also look for a sign stating that the chef is a trained pizza expert, a “pizzaiolo” — learn about how Neopolitan pizza making is on the UNESCO “intangible heritage” list here.

You can stick to the classic Margharita or branch out. I had a spicy ‘nduja sausage one and it was the best pizza I have had in Italy.

My spicy pizza at L’Albero dei Visconti, where they have two pizzaioli.

Along the way, enjoy some wine. Ask for local wine and discover grape varietals that you have never heard of. But, traditionally, one drinks beer with pizza.

Take the last train to Rome.

Gluten-Free Eating in Rome

Can a celiac eat pasta, pizza, and gelato? Is a trip to Rome even possible?

First, learn the basic phrase for without gluten — “senza glutine” (sen-za glue-tea-neh) in Italian. While there are many dishes that do not include gluten, such as rice dishes, cross contamination can be a problem so it’s a good idea to explain that you have an allergy. Celiacs is “celiachia” in Italian and the “ce” at the start of the word is pronounced as a “chay” so it’s “chay-lee-ah-chee” but you can show the restaurant this phrase from Celiac Travel which explains that you have celiacs and that you cannot eat food made with wheat or wheat products.

Sono affetto da celiachia (intolleranza al glutine), devo seguire una dieta assolutamente priva di glutine.

Qualsiasi cibo contenente farina/amido di grano (frumento), segale, orzo, avena, farro, spelta, kamut e triticale può causarmi gravi malori.

Luckily, the Italians are obsessed with gut health, so they will feel the tragedy for you, and they will understand. Now, on to the places in Rome where you can eat!

Restaurants:

Mama Eat Lab (100 percent gluten free) – They also have another restaurant called Mama Eat but it is not 100 percent gluten-free.

New Food Gluten Free – Ponte Sisto (100 percent gluten free)

Pantha Rei

La Soffitta Renovatio

Ristorante Il Tulipano Nero

Voglia Di Pizza

Ristorante Pizzeria Il Veliero

Lievito72

Sans de blé

Risotteria Melotti — it is a rice based restaurant

La Scaletta

Pub Cuccagna

Ristorante II Viaggio – gluten and dairy free.

Millennium 

Mangiafuoco Pizza & Grill

Taverna Barberini 

Bakeries:

Le Altre Farine Del Mulino

La Pasticciera

Pandalì

Celiachiamo Lab (also a shop)

Gelato:

Fatamorgana Trastevere

Grom

Fiocco di neve

Gelato G Italiano

Frigidarium

Icecream Shop La Strega Nocciola

The Italian chocolate brand even makes gluten-free chocolate

Read a really good article here. Much of this list is from that site (which includes information about AIC — gluten-free accreditation). This site also rates the places. I also looked at this site which gave a good roundup of gluten-free eats in Rome but more importantly, a list of gluten-free eateries at the airport!

Trendy Places Frequented by the Upper Class and Locals

It so transpired that I got an insiders’ list of a different kind. Through a cousin of a former colleague’s colleague, I was sent a list of recommendations of, “names of restaurants and trendy places attended by upper class and local inhabitants.” Not all these places are upscale.

APERITIVO (drinks/happy hour)

Terrazza Borromini, Piazza Navona – needs booking.

Without booking Hotel De La Ville, Piazza di Spagna.

Hotel de la Ville is on the left. This is at the top of the Spanish Steps.

COFFEE

Colbert Ristorante, caffè bistrot all’interno di Villa Medici. It’s the cafe inside the Medici Villa.

Caffè Ciampini at trinità dei Monti. At the Spanish Steps.

Caffetteria delle Arti alla Galleria Nazionale delle Arti Moderne. The museum of modern art’s cafe.

LUNCH/DINNER

For food tasting of marzapane, Bistró 64.

For lunch from 200€ to 20€: Iside, il tempio del pesce (temple of fish).

La Pariolina.

Il Ceppo, Parioli: If you like stockfish (bacalao, or dried cod, reconstituted)

L’Oste Matto.

Fascetteria Marini, Largo dei Librai.

Filettaro. This is the only one I had heard of. It’s on ALL the lists. The line is usually out the door so I have not been yet.

Ginger. I actually tried to go here one day, but they were closed.

Da Nerone, Via Conca d’Oro.

For carbonara: Roscioli. This is a super famous restaurant.

Perilli, at Piramide. The pyramid is a landmark.

Sugo or Cuccuruccu, Ponte Milvio. Near the river.

Osteria Coppelle, Piazza Coppelle.

Sora Margherita, Piazza 5 Scole (The square of five schools).

At the restaurant Quinto Roma, you can eat in igloos.

Il Datterino Giallo, Piazza Ledro: “Il Datterino Giallo, vi propone una cucina genuina e verace, al contempo sana e molto attuale, in un ambiente sofisticato ma non troppo, un mix di arredo tra il provenzale e l’industriale in una ‘location’ prestigiosa come quella del quartiere romano…” translates to: … offers traditional Italian cuisine, Mediterranean, at the same time innovative, in a welcoming location, inspired by a hybrid style between Provencal and industrial… in a prestigious location of Rome.



I have not been to any of these places. If you go, let me know how it was.